Some big thinking is evident here, but not of the traditional jazz type. Trumpeter Taylor Haskins obviously takes compositional inspiration from rock, film and electronic music, as well as jazz. Not the first player of his generation to do so, he's brought some like-minded friends along.
”You Have Everything You Need” begins in the Latin-epic arena, with guitarist-extraordinaire Ben Monder's strumming setting off Haskins, saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and violinist Regina Bellantese's unison theme. The tune calls for wide-spanned, lightning quick arpeggiation on guitar, so it's lucky Ben's handy. In consonantly cacophonous fashion, the band rides a wave of harmony set up by pianist Guillermo Klein, setting up “Equal Being,” a ballad having little to do with conventional jazz vocabulary and more to do with mood and repetitive snippets of melodicism. Often the bass doubles the piano line, only to then set it off for Haskins' muscularly lyrical solo. Rathbun's big-toned solo statement powerfully echoes Haskins' idea, after which they fittingly blow in unison. The overall effect is more powerful than the sum of its parts-epic rock balladry meets the jazzbo set.
This all leads to “Dream With You,” a more full-on pop trip featuring a Radiohead-like intro into a drum'n'bass feel, complete with laptopisms from Haskins, featuring female vocals by Aubrey Smith that serve a more atmospheric than content-driven function. This is certainly unlike anything previously issued on the FSNT imprint - in a good way! I really like what happens when the vocal drops out and Monder makes a super-clean-toned jazzy rock guitar statement over a Soul Coughing-like rhythm track. On this date, Ben goes a long way toward proving he's the most likely guitarist to fill in for Jonny Greenwood on a sick day.
The cruising “Nomad” sets up “Parking Lots,” another pop song, this time with deep Björk references. Theremin intros the tune to it's usual spooky effect, yielding to unison “strumming” by piano and guitar. Monder paints harmonic scenery for sensual vocals, a paragraph drenched in the poetry of dual-relationships, ceding to beautiful dual wordless vocalizations with trumpet.
Like the Bad Plus and other lesser-known jazzers, including Plus members and fellow FSNTers Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson, Haskins' work tinkers with jazz forms, mingling them with rock ideas. These artists are forging something new, compelling and ear-grabbing having more to do with mood, hook and atmosphere than key centers, reharmonization and scale substitutions. The influence of artists like Radiohead and Björk, simply the most pervasive influences on current popular music, resonates profoundly on Haskins' improbably impressive debut, wherein traditional forms are discarded and the beauty of new forms revealed. - Phil DiPietro